The old saying that everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it isn't necessarily true. When it comes to shifting weather patterns brought about by climate change, some people are doing something about it.
The effects of a warmer climate are chilling, so to speak. If the only effect of higher temperatures were to turn Vancouver Island into the new Hawaii, we could find some solace in that, but that's a simplistic - and incorrect - understanding of the problem. The consequences are many - warmer oceans, melting glaciers, more violent storms, changing ecosystems - and likely include Vancouver Island's record-setting dry spell.
The world's food supply is at risk. Changing weather is a problem for food crops and for fishing. University of B.C. researchers have calculated that global warming will reduce the amount of oxygen in the oceans, which in turn will mean smaller fish and depleted catches. The researchers estimate body weight of many species of fish will shrink by 14 to 20 per cent in the next four decades. That could have major effects on the marine food chain.
According to the humanitarian group DARA International, climate change and greenhouse gases are cutting the world's gross domestic product by 1.6 per cent a year. Droughts bring higher food prices for wealthier nations, but severe food shortages for poor countries. By 2030, says DARA, about 100 million people will die because of the effects of climate change.
The UBC researchers, as do most scientists, point to the burning of fossil fuels as a significant factor in global warming. It's a planet-sized problem, and the temptation is to shrug it off with a "what can one person do?" attitude. So many cars, so many factories, so many sources of greenhouse gases - where do you start?
But one way to avoid death by a thousand cuts is to heal those cuts one at a time. And that is happening all around us, as people look for ways to reduce their use of fossil fuels.
The B.C. government is subsidizing the installation of more than 450 electric-car recharging stations across the province, including 70 on Vancouver Island. On the face of it, it seems an impractical thing to do - one source says there are only about 65 electric cars on the Island and most of the people who own the cars have their own charging stations at home.
But making recharging easy could promote more use of electric cars, cutting carbon dioxide emissions. It's an industry still in its infancy, so it's a bit of a risk to invest in electric-car technology, but it's a risk worth taking.
Sometimes the solutions are within easier reach. A Greater Victoria project has resulted in 50,000 litres of used cooking oil being burned to power buses, which has kept 150 tonnes of greenhouse-gas emissions out of the atmosphere.
It's a co-operative effort by the Cowichan Biofuel Coop, CVS Cruise Victoria bus lines, Tervita Environmental and Energy Services, Greasecycle, and the Northwest and Canada Cruise Association. Used cooking oil from cruise ships is converted into biofuel for CVS buses, and the environment benefits.
Small efforts multiplied become major efforts; attitudes are contagious and can change how and what we do.
We cannot shrug off the growing problems of climate change just because they are not immediately apparent to us, or are happening in a distant place. We are all connected.
As naturalist John Muir said, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it is hitched to everything else in the universe."
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